People who love to stargaze are in for a treat, as this year’s Lyrid meteor shower is coming back to the night sky. This spectacular event is going to start on April 16, so everyone who follows such events can enjoy the show somewhere dark starting tonight.
According to NASA, Lyrids meteors are the oldest known to humanity, with scientists believing it was the first meteor shower that has ever been recorded and watched in 687 BC, roughly 2,700 years ago. Everyone who loves to catch meteor showers can watch it until April 25.
The Lyrid meteor shower is believed to originate from the debris that came off the comet G1 Thatcher. The comet was initially spotted on April 5, 1861 in New York by astronomer A.E. Thatcher. A few years later, in 1867, Gottfried Galle, a German astronomer, discovered that the Lyrid meteors and the comet are associated with each other.
Every year, Earth passes through the debris that makes the Lyrids, located close to the constellation Lyra, between April 14 and April 30. If you look at the sky, you will see the emerging point of Lyrids located near Vega, considered one of the brightest stars at that time of the year. If you live in light-polluted areas, such as highly populated cities, you will still be able to spot it in the night sky.
According to NASA, Lyrids are fast and bright meteors. When they appear in the night sky, they can provide a show of 18 meteors per hour, although it has been previously observed that the streaking meteors can reach 100 per hour.
“The number of meteors can vary, and very rarely ‘storm,’ but on a very dark and moonless night there are usually up to 20 good meteors an hour,” NASA said on its website.
For everyone who wants to watch the show, it’s worth pointing out that the closest distance of the Earth to the Lyrids that is located in Thatcher’s orbit will be during the nights of April 21 or 22. The Lyrid meteor shower will peak at that time, delivering a spectacular show of 15 to 22 meteors per hour.
Stargazers living in the northern hemisphere will be able to have the clearest view of the meteors. However, skywatchers living mid-south will be able to spot the showers between midnight and the morning. NASA also advises that the skywatchers should look towards the east while waiting for the shower to peak, also stargazers are advised to wait for the moon to set so that no meteors are washed off by its light.
“Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors,” NASA said.